Victor Fankenstein as a tragic hero

Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein is a classic example of a tragic tale, told through the story of Victor Frankenstein, the tragic hero, and the creation of his monster. Like other tragic heroes in literature, such as Oedipus and Hamlet, Frankenstein is a character who falls from grace due to his hamartia, or tragic flaw. Victor Frankenstein, a respected and ambitious young scientist, neglects his loved ones in pursuit of his ultimate goal: the attainment of knowledge and power. Frankenstein’s hamartia is his hubris, or excessive pride, leading him to challenge the natural order of life and death.

In Frankenstein’s case, we can see many tragic elements at play. Victor is a brilliant and devoted scientist who is fascinated by the mysteries of life and death. His ambition to create a new type of being that would transcend mortality and become a superior being is driven by his curiosity, and his need to prove himself to his peers and his family. Victor sees himself as a modern Prometheus, defying the gods and creating life from clay and fire. He believes that he can “penetrate the secrets of nature” and “unfold to the world the deepest mysteries of creation“. His hubris is evident in his excessive confidence in his abilities and his disregard for the moral and ethical consequences of his experiment. Victor becomes obsessed with his creation, ignoring the warnings of his conscience and his loved ones. His arrogance blinds him to the risks and challenges of playing God, and he believes that he can control the creature once he brings it to life.

Victor is not a dark villain but a very human character, who unwittingly unleashes destruction and chaos by his reckless miscalculation. His fatal flaw lies is his lack of responsibility and disregard for ethical moral codes of conduct. He fails to recognize the implications of his actions and the impact they have on others. When he realizes that he has created a monster that is intelligent, violent, and uncontrollable, he abandons it altogether and flees in terror. He leaves the creature to survive on its own, without any guidance or socialization. Victor’s neglect triggers a series of tragic events that lead to the destruction of his family, his friends, and himself. The creature kills William, Victor’s younger brother, Justine, the family’s servant, and Henry Clerval, Victor’s best friend. The creature also torments Victor psychologically and emotionally, demanding that he creates a female companion for it to alleviate its loneliness and its desire for love and companionship. Victor initially agrees to the creature’s request, but then he reneges on his promise and destroys the second creation. This act of betrayal shatters the creature’s hope for a peaceful and happy life, and it vows to pursue Victor and destroy everything he loves.

One of the themes that the novel explores is the tension between individualism and social responsibility. Victor’s actions are driven by his desire for personal glory and scientific achievement, but they also have pernicious effects on his community and his world. His pursuit of knowledge and power leads to the creation of a monster that threatens the stability and safety of society. The creature represents the other side of individualism, the alienated and oppressed being that is excluded from social order.

In conclusion, Victor Frankenstein fits neatly into the mold of a tragic hero because he embodies the elements of the tragic genre – pride, fatal flaw, and unforeseen events – and because his story evokes pity and fear in the reader. His downfall, recognition of his flaw, and acceptance of responsibility contribute to the tragic arc of his story. Like other tragic heroes, Frankenstein ultimately gains knowledge and perspective, leading to his tragic end but also serving a higher purpose.